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Pollock, G.H. (1997). Trauma and Dreams edited by Deirdre Barrett Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, viii + 272 pp., $35.00. Psa. Books, 8(4):440-443.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Books, 8(4):440-443

Trauma and Dreams edited by Deirdre Barrett Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, viii + 272 pp., $35.00

Review by:
George H. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D.

Seventeen individually written chapters, all relating to the theme of trauma and dreams, stimulate, enlighten, and challenge. Present research as well as clinical findings are included in the book.

Deirdre Barrett is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, President of the Association for the Study of Dreams (1995-1996), and editor of this compendium of essays. She notes that Freud's “wish fulfillment” function of the dream was a basic assertion, but seemingly did not explain the dreams in “war neuroses.” To some extent this is true; however, dreams cannot be isolated from sleep. The “wish” is that the dream protects the continuity of sleep. When the dream cannot fulfill this function, we get disruptions of sleep (e.g., nightmares). Barrett notes that the posttraumatic stress disorders of Vietnam veterans, and the growing attention to the significance of abuse of women and children, ushered in the modern study of psychological trauma. Shell shock in World War I and battle fatigue in World War II seem to have been precursors of our current formulations. Cross-cultural studies of dreams associated with psychological trauma began to appear, for example, in Kuwait and the United States. The understanding of traumatic dreams may be the first opening in recovering repressed memories of trauma. This observation, however, has given rise to much controversy over the “false memory syndrome.” Hartmann (1984) reported that “some frequent nightmare sufferers can be trauma free and that much horrific dream imagery can be purely metaphoric” (cited in Barrett, p. 4).

This volume is divided into three parts. The first addresses “Dreams after Childhood Trauma.” The second part focuses on “Adult Trauma in “Wars and Natural Disasters.” The concluding section deals with the “Traumas of Normal Living.”

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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